CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – A quick look at top-ranked North Carolina’s 101-75 win over Mississippi Valley State at the Smith Center on Sunday:
What it means: That the Tar Heels improve to 3-0, with three more games left to play over the next week. But they really, really need to work on their free-throw shooting, after making only 16 of 31 from the line.
How it happened: The feisty Delta Devils – despite playing without their tallest player – had the game tied 12-12 about seven minutes in, and trailed only 22-19 before UNC finally broke it open with a 13-2 run. UNC’s defense held MVSU to 30.8 percent shooting in the first half – but UNC struggled early in the second half to put the Devils away, at least in that blow-them-out-by-40-points sense. MVSU cut its deficit to 58-45 with about 12 minutes left but never got any closer. Forward Tyer Zeller (16 points, 10 rebounds) put the Tar Heels ahead by 30 with about seven minutes left, and UNC, led by John Henson (18 points, 14 rebounds) and Harrison Barnes (18 points), were too tall and too talented for the Devils to overcome. All of Carolina's starters were on the bench for good with five minutes remaining. Brent Arrington led all scorers with 33 points for MVSU.
Hubbub: UNC may have a tough road schedule – five of its first eight away from the Smith Center – but it has nothing on MVSU. The Delta Devils’ stop in Chapel Hill was part of a string of 12 road games in nine different states before they finally play at home.
Injury note: Senior reserve Justin Watts was taken to the training room in the second half after getting hit on the head. He was back on the bench with about eight minutes left, but didn’t return to the game.
Number crunch: UNC now is 95-7 in home openers, winning 79 of the last 81. The only home openers it has lost since the 1928-29 season were in 1999-2000, to Michigan, and in 2001-02, to Hampton.
What's next: UNC faces Tennessee State in a second preliminary game of the Las Vegas Invitational at the Smith Center on Tuesday night. The Tar Heels leave for Vegas on Wednesday, and will play South Carolina on Friday and either Southern California or UNLV on Saturday.
Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp